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USC let gynecologist continue treating students despite years of misconduct allegations

Harriet Ryan and Matt Hamilton, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- For nearly 30 years, the University of Southern California's student health clinic had one full-time gynecologist: Dr. George Tyndall. Tall and garrulous with distinctive jet black hair, he treated tens of thousands of female students, many of them teenagers seeing a gynecologist for the first time.

Few who lay down on Tyndall's exam table at the Engemann Student Health Center knew that he had been accused repeatedly of misconduct toward young patients.

The complaints began in the 1990s, when co-workers alleged he was improperly photographing students' genitals. In the years that followed, patients and nursing staff accused him again and again of "creepy" behavior, including touching women inappropriately during pelvic exams and making sexually suggestive remarks about their bodies.

In recent years, some colleagues feared that he was targeting the university's growing population of Chinese students, who often had a limited understanding of the English language and American medical norms.

Still, Tyndall was allowed to continue practicing. It was not until 2016, when a frustrated nurse went to the campus rape crisis center, that he was suspended.

An internal USC investigation determined that Tyndall's behavior during pelvic exams was outside the scope of current medical practice and amounted to sexual harassment of students. But in a secret deal last summer, top administrators allowed Tyndall to resign quietly with a financial payout.

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The university did not inform Tyndall's patients. Nor did USC report him at the time to the Medical Board of California, the agency responsible for protecting the public from problem doctors.

USC told the Los Angeles Times in a statement that it was under no legal obligation to report Tyndall. The statement said that "in hindsight," USC should have reported him. The university said it belatedly filed a complaint with the medical board March 9 following a request by Tyndall to be reinstated. It was about a month after Times reporters began questioning university employees about Tyndall.

President C.L. Max Nikias sent a letter to the campus community Tuesday morning in advance of the publication of this story. Nikias noted that he had two daughters who attended USC and called Tyndall's conduct "a profound breach of trust."

"On behalf of the university I sincerely apologize to any student who may have visited the student health center and did not receive the respectful care each individual deserves," Nikias wrote.

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